July 1995 in PDF format (1238K)
Of all the toxic substances produced during cooking, the most important are likely to be the heterocyclic amines. For 17 years, LLNL researchers have been identifying these food mutagens, measuring their abundance in cooked foods typical of the Western diet, working to understand how they can trigger malignant tumors in laboratory animals that have been exposed to high mutagen doses, and estimating the importance of human exposures. Our success is largely a function of the interdisciplinary approach we have taken to quantify food mutagens and to study their biological effects. LLNL investigators were the first to identify five of the most important mutagens in heated food, including PhIP and DiMeIQx. We have shown that fried beef may be the most important single source of heterocyclic amines in the human diet and that PhIP accounts for most of the combined mass of mutagens in fried beef cooked well-done. Most nonmeat foods contain low or undetectable levels of these types of compounds, but some cooked protein-containing foods, such as those high in wheat gluten, have significant levels of unknown aromatic amine mutagens. Cooking time and temperature significantly affect the amounts of mutagens generated. For example, reducing the frying temperature of ground beef from 250 to 200°ree;C lowers the mutagenic activity by six- to sevenfold. Microwave pretreatment of meat and discarding the liquid that is formed also greatly reduces the formation of heterocyclic amines. Our related work on dose and risk assessment will be described in a forthcoming article.
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